Gram Parsons The Complete Reprise Sessions / Fallen Angel

Gram Parsons The Complete Reprise Sessions / Fallen Angel
Every art form seems to require tragic heroes in order to persist — even country rock. And although Gram Parsons is the undeniable figurehead of the genre, the myth surrounding his brief life and truly poetic death has raised him from being a marginal face in the early ’70s L.A. crowd to one of the most influential musical figures of the past 25 years. His slim contributions to the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers are justly regarded as groundbreaking for bridging the cultural gap between hippies and rednecks, but it is his only solo work, presented here, that fulfilled the promise, however short-lived it may have been. In only two albums, GP and Grievous Angel, Parsons had finally grown from being the bastard child of Mick Jagger and George Jones, to an artist who carried all the authority of classic country, but with a vulnerability that thwarted any attempt to gloss his music over with Nashville sheen. Hampered by addiction, his struggle to get to this place couldn’t have been accomplished without the aid of Emmylou Harris, whom Parsons discovered just prior to making GP. Their duets, especially the gut-wrenching Grievous Angel triumvirate of "Hearts On Fire,” "$1000 Wedding” and "Love Hurts” still stand as some of the greatest harmony singing of all time. Apart from some radio clips, the appeal of this set for long-time fans is the third disc of previously unheard alternate versions from both albums. As expected, they reveal Parsons on shakier ground, but somehow it adds more poignancy in showing how determined he was to achieve the final outcome. Of course, it would all end here, and for full details of his infamous demise, it’s recommended to view the BBC documentary Fallen Angel, available separately now on DVD. While tales of Parsons’ life will undoubtedly continue to inspire troubled young troubadours everywhere, his real legacy is now completely preserved with this thorough and respectful treatment of his final statements. (Rhino)